Everyone knows that Schnabel's recordings of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas are regarded as something of a holy grail item - which is probably why this is the first time they have appeared as anything other than full price releases. Previously, Pearl were considered to have done the best job of transfering the old records onto CD, but the price to be paid was a high level of background hiss. The EMI transfers eliminated this hiss to the point of it being almost inaudible, but by the same token one feels as if he or she is listening to a fortepiano recording due to the highs being virtually cut out.
In these new transfers, Mark Obert-Thorn has tried to strike a balance between the two extremes, and has by and large succeeded. There is still some hiss, but nothing compared to what one could hear on the Pearl issues, and one is quite aware of Schnabel's pianistic skills, as was not often the case on the EMI set. The interpretations are of course, transcendental as always, setting standards which are generally accepted to be the benchmark for Beethoven playing.
To sum up, if you have the Pearl issues you might find this new Naxos release a welcome one, as it removes a great deal of the hiss. If you have the EMI transfers, this new disc will prove indispensable especially at the bargain price.